The theft of crude oil has cost Kazakhstan around 104 billion tenge ($313 million) over the last 3 years, according to the country’s deputy prosecutor general, Andrei Lukin.
Cases of stealing in the oil-producing heartland of western Kazakhstan are nothing new, although it seems authorities now have a clearer picture of the extent of the illegal trade following major security operations recently carried out against criminal groups.
Speaking at a forum in Aktobe last week, Lukin warned that revenue losses from oil theft since 2014 could be even greater than the 104 billion tenge estimate.
He indicated the nefarious business had grown so large that «as soon as law enforcement agencies uncover one [operation] for illegally taking oil from the country, another appears.»
Lukin accused the producers themselves of being the main culprits. «An analysis of just 40 of Kazakhstan’s [oil] production companies showed that they sold more oil than they extracted,» he told reporters and lawmakers.
Among the countries receiving this oil are Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Russia.
Trials have been under way in the courts in the western oil city of Aktobe against groups who sold their oil inside and outside Kazakhstan.
Lukin did not elaborate on illegal oil production sites. There are an unknown number of such operations in western Kazakhstan, operating on small fields in remote areas that were often opaquely privatised in the mid-1990s.
The fields are too small to attract the attention of state oil comany KazMunayGas (KMG), but they continue operate.
They are unregistered and usually do not declare any information about their finances. Such operations are also believed to be under the protection of powerful local officials.